Adventurous drivers to tackle tough road rally in tiny 800cc motor

Reporter:

Rob Bellis

As you read this Mike Collins and Ian Portbury will be wedged into a tiny 800cc Perodua Nippa somewhere in continental Europe.

The friends, who met through their hobby of paintballing, are among 120 teams taking part in the 2010 Mongol Rally and are heading for the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.

When, or should I say “if”, they reach their destination in central Asia – their team name is Don’t Follow Us We’re Lost Too – they will be donating the car to the Mercy Corps so that it can be sold in aid of the charity.

Along the way the plucky Perodua, with a top speed of 65mph, will cross France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Ukraine and, of course, the vast expanse of Russia.

It is the first time that Ian, 42, who works at the Vauxhall plant in his home town of Ellesmere Port, has done anything like this.

Not so 33-year-old soldier Mike, from Connah’s Quay.

“I did a similar rally two years ago,” he explained. “It was the Plymouth-Banjul rally which started in the UK and went across the Sahara Desert to Gambia.

“To us it’s an adventure, it’s certainly not a holiday. Two years ago we drove a Mitsubishi Shogun and when we got there we donated it to a doctor so that he could get out to the more remote areas.”

That adventure was not without its problems.

“We kept getting stopped by the police there,” Mike recalled. “Some of them saw Westerners as having plenty of money so they kept trying to fine us for anything and everything they could think of. We got stuck in the desert but thankfully some of the locals came to help us out.”

So with this experience of getting stuck in rough terrain in a purpose built 4x4, why have they opted to take a budget hatchback on this particular journey?

“The rule of this rally is the cars have to be less than 1000cc,” said Mike. “It keeps all the competitors on a level playing field. It is going to be challenging, there’s 30,000km of mapped road in Mongolia but only 1,500km of that is tarmac.

“At the end of the rally we’re giving the car to the Mercy Corps and they will sell it off.

“In Mongolia, if someone wants to buy a car they have to go to Russia or China to buy one. Say they spend $500 on the car, it will cost them $2,000 in import tax to bring it back into the country which means they can’t afford it.

“Because we are donating the car it means we don’t have to pay that tax. Someone in Mongolia can therefore have a car for $500 and the charity keeps the money to plough back into that area.”

With the heavily laden Perodua limited in terms of speed, the journey to Mongolia looks set to take Mike and Ian about six weeks.

It’s a long time to spend in a confined space in the company of one other person so how do they think they will get on?

“We’ve known each other for about 15 years,” said Mike. “I’m not sure we’ll get on but it’s going to be one of those things.

“I’m bringing lessons from the last time round when I was with a very good friend from my college days. We fell out quite a few times but you just have to forget about it and carry on in the morning.”

As well as donating the car to the Mercy Corps, the pair are also raising money for a charity here in Britain, Lupus UK, a charity very close to Ian’s heart.

“My partner’s sister had lupus from a young age and she had kidney failure because of it,” he said. “We’ve found out that my partner has lupus as well so it’s about raising awareness as much as anything.”

Lupus is an incurable immune system illness, probably genetic in origin and mainly suffered by females.

Some 50,000 people are now thought to have lupus in the UK, with its many symptoms often making it difficult to diagnose.

Meanwhile, a number of major organs can be damaged in an irreversible way, principally the kidneys and the skin but also the heart, lungs and brain.

Anyone interested in donating to Lupus UK, via Ian and Mike, can do so at www.justgiving.com/ian-portbury

People can keep up to date with the lads’ progress by logging on to their Facebook page, Mongol Rally 2010 – Don't Follow Us, We're Lost Too!

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